Thursday, February 27, 2014

In Which I Get Rid of Our Toys

Don't adjust your screens ladies and gentlemen (mostly ladies), you read that correctly. I am getting rid of our toys. WITH MY KIDS' BLESSING!

Last year's big toy closet organization scheme helped. But the playroom is still a major source of heartache and tears and shouting in our home. We had a family meeting and the kids agreed that it would be a good experiment to get rid of the toys and see how we like life without them.

When my now big kids were all little, they were supposed to keep their toys cleaned up, but mostly I did it. We lived in a much smaller house, we had fewer people, and fewer toys. But now? I no longer have the time or the inclination to clean up the kids' toys and keep them organized. I have nine people to feed, and four people to educate, and thousands of people to regale with stories about horse baby food ('of' not 'for,' unfortunately). And books about confession don't write themselves, people.

And where we used to have one or two bins of toys, we now have . . . twelve. And that's AFTER the big Lent clean out last year AND a small Advent purge.

The big kids resent having to clean up messes they didn't make, and the new little kids aren't any better at cleaning up after themselves than the old little kids were. Something's got to give.


Monday, February 24, 2014

the BIG purse dump

It was time. It was really time.

I have a purse I love, that I am so excited to pull out every fall. But it was full of junk. Full. of. junk.

Time for a big purse dump.

And since I have a blog, you get to share the fun . . . 

Here is my purse:

At 11.2 lbs, it is the second heaviest thing I carry around all day.

Here are its contents:

Here is a closer look:

  Here are the details:

1. Diapers: In sizes newborn, 1, 2, and 4 because apparently I'm never quite sure what size my baby is going to be that day. Also, no wipes. Yikes.

2. Random miscellaneous items: Embroidery floss, folding scissors, a magnetic rock with four safety pins stuck to it, a rubber band, and a nail made by a blacksmith at the LA County Fair in 2012. You just never know when something like that is going to come in handy.

3. Rosaries: A rosary is a good thing to have in your purse. I like to multitask, so I almost always say my rosary while driving, or running, or standing in line somewhere. I am also very distractable, so it's nearly impossible for me to say a rosary without holding a rosary. But perhaps I don't absolutely need to be carrying around seven rosaries at all times.

4. Trash: Including leaves, popcorn, receipts, shopping lists, coupons, and delicious looking wrappers.

5. Electronics: I carry my iPad around almost all the time in case I get a chance to read (I do almost all of my reading in iBooks now) or write (in notepad). 

And that's my phone. It's all retro Paris Hilton circa 2006, so try not to be too jealous.

6. Money: My wallet, checkbook (also old school), and the $14.71 I found floating around in there.

7. Writing utensils: That's eleven pens and pencils. Eleven. In the event of a zombie apocalypse I will be able to take a lot of notes about the zombie apocalypse.

8. Paperwork: I carry all the kids' shot records everywhere I go because otherwise there is no chance I would ever have them with me when we went to the pediatrician's office. Plus Southwest accepts them as proof of age for lap babies. Two birds, one stone. Also in there, some old appointment reminder cards, used theme park tickets, and a very mangled examination of conscience.

9. Baby clothes: One set of jammies, two onsies, two hats, three pairs of socks, and one stowaway nursing pad.

10. Camera stuff: Spare battery and extra lens for my camera, and a spare memory card for a different camera that I haven't used in a year. Plus my camera was in there too, here is its selfie:

11. Food: I once read a story about a little old couple who got stuck in a snow bank and survived for weeks on catsup packets they found in the car. I wonder how long a family of nine could survive on two suckers, one squeezie applesauce, and three packages of fruit snacks.

12. Beauty products: Tissues, lip gloss, bandaids, hair band? Reasonable so far. Sunscreen, various creams and hand lotions? Okay, maybe. It IS Southern California. 

Nail file and clippers? I'm a sometimes nail biter and those things will maybe MAYBE stop me from biting all of my nails off at the moment I notice one of them touching the side of my finger, so those should be in there. Vick's inhaler? Helps with the pregnancy nausea I had just last, um, seven months ago. Floss? Hmmm, not usually an on-the-go activity. 

Two bars of soap? Free samples from the doctor's office. I am so not a bring-your-own-soap places kind of mom. 

And then . . . there's the giant comb.

And I . . . I just don't know. Seriously. I have no idea. I wouldn't have thought there was a giant black comb in my whole house, let alone in my purse. It looks like it belongs in the mysterious blue liquid at a barber shop.

13. Dinosaurs. And a tiny sword: No explanation necessary I think.

14. Books: February Magnificat, good to have. January Magnificat, not so much. The Holy Spouses Rosary, recommended to me by my friend Micaela . . .

15. Project: In case the rosaries, iPad, pens and pencils, and dinosaurs aren't enough to keep me occupied, I also have this:

and if you're coming to the Behold Conference next weekend, YOU could have it next.

Now for the official categories:
  • It's my favorite thing in here: The ice cream sandwich? But that's gone. I'll have to go with the baby quilt. I really like the colors.
  • Wow, I really have a lot of these: I have kind of a lot of lots of things I wasn't expecting. Bars of soap, diapers, safety pins, fruit snacks, pens and pencils, but I'm going to have to go with rosaries. That is a LOT of rosaries.
  • I've been looking for those: The $14.71? No, I didn't know that was missing. The nail I guess. I think I remember it being up on the shelf above where I keep my purse. But I couldn't say I'd really been looking for it.
  • Huh. THAT shouldn't be in there: Almost everything, but mostly that comb.
I switched purses to something a little more "late winter/early spring" and put only the least crazy stuff back in there (plus some wipes), and now it only weights 7.6 lbs. 


Okay, YOUR turn. Dump out your purse and let me know your answers to the official categories, or categories of your own choosing. You can answer in the comments, or link up your blog. 

No cheating, except for Kelly. Kelly's funny when she cheats. 


Sunday, February 23, 2014

How to Love Your Kids and Like Them Too

Discipline. It's a scary word that conjures up images of switches behind the shed and nuns with rulers in hand. But I'm here to tell you that it's the thing that makes me not only love my children, but genuinely enjoy being around them.

We live in a Chicken Little parenting environment, where everyone around us is second guessing themselves and each other, where people are convinced that various parenting styles are dangerous or wrong, but really where most people just aren't very experienced parents. And maybe (just maybe) don't know what they're talking about.

Discipline is good for lots of things. It's good for setting kids up for success in school and sports and hobbies and future careers, it's good for their religious and moral development, it's good at keeping them from getting squished in parking lots. But it's also really, really good at making them pleasant to be around all day. For YOU. Because YOU are around them all day.

Don't confuse "discipline" with "punishment." Discipline will involve punishment, probably. Unless you are St. Anne or the Blessed Virgin, your discipline is going to involve some punishing of one sort or another.

But "discipline" itself is about control. Its first step is a parent being able to control her children's behavior and its goal is children being able to control their own behavior.

What that looks like in MY family is going to depend on MY family culture.

Because what is acceptable to one family isn't going to be acceptable to another. YOU decide if you can live with gleeful shrieks (I cannot) or getting clothes dirty (not a problem for me) or jumping on the couch (okay in the playroom, but not in the living room). 

*I* am in charge of these particular kids, because God made it so. A CEO is in charge of creating a corporate culture, and of instituting rules and policies and expectations that will allow that company to thrive. In the same way, I have to institute and enforce rules that will allow my family to thrive.

So my kids are allowed to do some stuff that your kids might not be allowed to do, and your kids maybe shouldn't be allowed to do some things that I let my kids do. That's the beauty of a family culture, it can be very specific.

Of course, my expectations have to be reasonable and age appropriate. And what I can live with in regards to things like personal space and noise level and general orderliness of my home has changed quite a bit over the years. It had to.

And my kids all have different personalities and interests and that's fine. Discipline isn't about changing who my children ARE, it's about helping who they are to fit in with who all the rest of us are.

There's just no other way to say it: You get to make YOUR kids liveable for YOUR family. So you need to determine the few things that make your life the most difficult, make rules to fix those things, and be really, really consistent on enforcing them.

For me it would probably be: stay in bed during naps and after bedtime, come when you are called, say "okay mama" when I ask you to do something, no complaining, no tattling, no shrieking. But things like making beds, and lunchtime table manners don't get enforced with the same regularity. I want my kids to make their beds every morning, really I do, but it's not SO important to me that I make a huge deal of it every day. And we sit down as a family for dinner, but I pretty much let them wander about while eating lunch. I don't want to enforce a seated family meal more than once per day. But if you get out of bed during naptime around here, your world ends, because I cannot live with that.

Like the Blues Brothers, I am on a mission from God. My authority over my children comes from God. Even Jesus was "subject" to his earthly parents. I am pretty strict. Stricter, perhaps, than most parents. But I'm also really goofy and loving and affectionate and available. I think my kids are thriving. They are fun and funny and smart and creative. Having rules and expectations doesn't squelch kids. Not liking them does. And if I hate being around them because they are totally untrained and insufferable then I might be tempted to just let them play video games all day and avoid their company. 

That's why I discipline my kids the way I do, so that we love being around each other. Hopefully other people like being around them too.

Thanks to Jenna from Call Her Happy for asking the question that inspired this post, and for posting the cutest little necklace ever that I can't stop thinking about.


It's been a while since I linked up with the lovely gals of Fine Linen and Purple, so . . . 

Here's what I wore Sunday:

Nursing-Friendly Dress & Sweater: Anthropologie (borrowed from my sister!)
Shoes: Amazon
Scarf (for increased nursing-friendliness): not shown

Are you joining me for the BIG purse dump? Next Tuesday (4/25) I'll open a link-up here which will be open all week. 

It's pretty complicated: Dump out your purse, take some photos, link it up.

You may wish to include the following . . . 
  • It's my favorite thing in here.
  • Wow, I really have a lot of these.
  • I've been looking for those.
  • Huh. THAT shouldn't be in there.
The fine print (which I'm keeping big so you can read it): NO CHEATING. No early tidying. No funny planted stuff. God is watching you.

Hope to see you there. Happy weekend everyone!


Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Chair of St Peter

Happy Feast of the Chair of St. Peter!

Yes, there is an actual, physical "Chair of St. Peter" housed at the Vatican. I've seen it! Jimmy Akin, can tell you everything you need to know about it and this feast, if you click here.

But what to do about it, today, with your kids? That *I* can help with.

Here's what we do:

Candy chairs of St. Peter can be made from pretty much anything you have lying around. We usually use some prepackaged cookies and candy, and frosting or royal icing to hold them together.

My kids really look forward to it, especially since most years this feast falls during Lent.

Happy Feasting everyone!

And a little something for the grownups, check this out: 

Black Metal, the Chair of St. Peter, and the Upside Down Kingdom


Thursday, February 20, 2014

In Which I Got 99 Problems (but you only have to read about 7 of them)

Sean McCabe
I've got problems. They are lame problems, but they are MY problems. It's a real . . . well, let's just get on with it.
Grocery Bag Problems

My biggest problem in the whole world right now is the county (and soon-to-be state) -wide ban on "single use" bags in stores. 

Which maybe says more about how soft my life is than about how terrible it is to have to remember to bring my own bags every time I go shopping. 

As I sit here trying to type this up, I realize that it's completely counter to how I usually roll for this to be so disruptive for me. I'm all about reusing things and minimizing waste. But don't they have anything better to do and this is totally driving me nuts. 


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How to Do Stuff One Handed

I just happen to have a super-adorable baby, who, like all my other babies, does not like to be put down. I often wear her in a carrier so I'll have both hands free, but if she's fallen asleep nursing, I usually just carry her around in one arm rather than risk waking her up by trying to get her into the carrier. 

Sometimes she's awake. But she prefers to be carried then too. 

That means I'm faced with the options of: 1. not doing stuff or 2. doing stuff one handed. Since I hate not doing stuff, I end up doing a lot of things one handed. 

Here are some things that are nearly impossible to do one handed and the things I use so I can do them anyway.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Some Exciting News . . .

I'm pleased to announce that my little book  and I will be making an appearance at the Behold Conference in Peoria, IL on March 1, 2014.

What will you get if you come to see me? 

Well . . .


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Outside the Box: 66 Things to Give Up or Take Up for Lent (in beginner, intermediate, and advanced)

Through my various Lenten fails over the years, I've learned a different way of approaching Lent. In our house, we now view Lent as a time to try adding or taking away things from our personal and family lives to see if we are improved. We make it a time, not of suffering (necessarily) but rather of increased focus on God and others and decreased focus on self and personal comfort. I have found that I can take up or give up just about anything, no matter how big or small, and use it as a reminder to pray more and love more. With that in mind, here are 66 ideas of things to consider giving up or taking up, in beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, for beginning, intermediate, and advanced Lents.

1. Don't take the best spot available in the parking lot
2. Take the worst parking spot you can find 
3. Don't drive: walk or take public transportation

1. Make the bed everyday
2. Make the bed everyday before you leave the bedroom
3. Put the throw pillows on and everything

1. Go to daily Mass once per week in addition to Sunday Mass
2. Go to daily Mass 2-3 times per week
3. Go to daily Mass every day

1. Don't leave dishes in the sink overnight
2. Do the cooking dishes before dinner and the dinner dishes dishes immediately after dinner
3. Don't use the dishwasher

1. Don't use credit cards, spend only cash
2. Keep a list of things to buy and only shop one day per week
3. Don't buy anything (except maybe food)

1. Don't eat out at restaurants
2. Make all your food from scratch
3. Grow/raise all your own food

1. Watch only specific, preselected movies or TV shows, not just whatever is on
2. Watch TV and movies only as a planned family event, not spur of the moment, not alone
3. Don't watch TV or movies

1. Say a family Rosary once a week
2. Say one decade of the Rosary as a family each day
3. Say a family Rosary every day

1. Only listen to audio books or Classical music in the car
2. Turn off the radio in the car
3. Say a Rosary in the car or listen to a spiritual audio book

1. Get up at a specific time each morning
2. Go to bed at a specific time each night
3. Be in bed for a set amount of time each night

1. Get dressed before 8am
2. No stretchy pants

1. Have dinner as a family
2. Have a family game night
3. Read a book aloud as a family

1. If you like email, make phone calls
2. If you like talking on the phone, write letters
3. Go visit someone in person

1. Know what you're going to make for dinner by 10am
2. Start a meal-planning system
3. Teach your kids to meal plan and cook

1. Clean the house each week
2. Clean the house before bed each night
3. Clean the house before dinner each evening

1. Eat more simply
2. Eat up the food that's in the back of the pantry and freezer
3. Eat only soup

1. Give up one particular type of treat
2. Give up all sweets
3. I'm pretty sure there's nothing harder than that

1. Switch from coffee to tea or vice versa
2. Limit yourself to one cup of coffee or tea per day
3. Give up caffeine 

1. Turn the lights off in empty rooms
2. Have lights turned on in only one room at a time
3. Don't use electricity

1. Say the Morning Offering when you wake up
2. And the Angelus at noon
3. And do an Examination of Conscience and say the Act of Contrition at night

1. Read the Sunday readings before Mass
2. Read the Bible for 10 minutes each day
3. And read the Catechism for 10 minutes each day

1. If you like TV, read a novel instead 
2. If you like novels, read a classic
3. If you like the classics, read great Catholic nonfiction

If you've got any ideas for an out of the box Lent, add them in the comments . . . 


Thursday, February 13, 2014

In Which the Biathlon is the Awesomest Sport in the Olympics, Obviously

Figure skating and other spinny judged sports might be getting more attention, but I am confident in my conviction that the Biathlon is really where it's at.

Here's why . . .

--- 1 ---

You have to be pretty much the perfect athlete to succeed at biathlon. Biathlon is TOUGH in every possible way. You have to have excellence in both aerobic and precision disciplines.

This is what cross country skiers look like after a race:

If a biathlete is laying down in the snow after cross country skiing, it's to shoot at stuff. Tiny stuff that's really far away.

--- 2 ---

Biathlon is also really PRACTICAL.

Apparently its origins are in Norwegian military training:

But think about THIS: in the event of a zombie attack at the Winter Olympics, who's going to survive?

Nazi zombies (also Norweigian)
These two?

Of course not, she'd be the first one eaten, if zombies can see, even a little.

These guys?

Can't you just imagine them frantically trying to hop away? <sigh> Hilarious.

No, you're going to want to be one of these guys:

Shoot zombies, ski away, go get some dinner.

--- 3 ---

Biathlon is old school. It was contested in the first Winter Olympics in 1924.


It's not desperately trying to be cool like all these johnny-come-latelies. "Slopestyle" is not even a word, just ask spellcheck. Saying it on television 500 times doesn't make it a word.

--- 4 ---

Snowboarding "slopestyle" (I will always put this in quotes) is bad enough, but the skiing? C'mon, that's just silly.

Every time I see one of them land a jump backwards and keep on heading down the hill, looking over a shoulder all the way down, I can't help but think of Mater:

--- 5 ---

And just when you think Biathlon couldn't get any awesomer, there are Tracy and Lanny Barnes.

The image of twin U.S. biathletes Tracy and Lanny Barnes doesn't move in Guinness' new Winter Olympics ad. But, trust us, the commercial will move you.
If there were a storytelling event in the Olympics for alcohol brands, Guinness might tie for the gold with Tullamore Dew.
See it for yourself here. And then watch the event today.

--- 6 ---

And hey, look! It's a Winter Olympic Sport personality chart! Just figure out your Meyers Briggs Personality Type and see which Winter Olympic sport suits you best:

It is very scientific and not at all mostly randomly assigned, so you should believe it.

Oh my goodness, I get biathlon, what a surprise. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.
--- 7 ---

In conclusion:

Biathlon wins.


Hey, changing gears here, I crashed an interview that my editor was doing on Relevant Radio. You can hear the whole hour featuring Grace of Praying With Grace and my editor, Vivian Dudro, talking about kids and confession and my new book. Or you can jump to forty-nine minutes in if you want to hear why, when I answer the phone, people always ask if they can talk to my mom. Because I sound like I am six.

Happy Valentine's Day!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Overacheiving Pinterest Moms" Probably Aren't Making Valentines *AT* You

Dear People Who Are Mad About Valentines,

There is a post going around called Overachieving Pinterest Moms Should Stop Making Valentines for Their Kids​

"You know which parents I'm talking about. They spent hours on Pinterest, scrolling through idea after idea after idea, on the hunt for the cleverest and cutest of Valentines. Hours more were wasted in the craft store, dragging exhausted children into "just one more aisle" before they headed home, plopped the kids in front of the TV, and got to work ... on their kids' Valentine's Day cards.

The fruits of their labor will be stunning, I'm sure. No globs of glue or dribbles of paint in sight. They will come home in my daughter's backpack, and as I paw through the pile of Valentines, they will stand heads and tails above the others in terms of "quality." 
And yet, I will know they did not come from any of her pals. No 8-year-old I've met has ever crafted anything that I've seen on Pinterest (at least nothing that gets repinned on the regular)."
We are a homeschooling family, so I know very little about the politics of classroom Valentine exchanges. But I've seen accusations like this levied at moms (by moms) about things like birthday parties and Halloween costumes as well.

And I wonder. Why do we have to be so quick to assume the worst? 


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Lego Movie: Go or No Go?

As subscribers to Lego Club Magazine AND Lego Club Junior, my boys have been breathlessly filling me in on various details of The Lego Movie for months now. I have to say, those details did not fill me with confidence. The bad guy is Lord "Business"? Only the unenlightened worry about "following the directions"? The world's only hope is "The Special" who will be "the brightest, most talented, most interesting person in the universe"? 

Oh brother, right? Just what I need. A movie to tell my kid that he is the special-est person in the universe (or he MIGHT be anyway), business is evil, and following instructions is for chumps.

But I was so intrigued by the clever use of well-known characters in the trailer, and I'm such a fan of stop motion animation (this isn't true stop motion, but the cgi is very true to the feel of traditional Lego stop motion), and my older boys were so very willing to be blackmailed by the chance to go see it . . . that we just had to go.

And . . . 

I really enjoyed it. 

None of the issues I was concerned about was problematic at all. Lord Business is a bad guy but not in a "corporations are evil" kind of way. Our hero is special mostly because he isn't, reminiscent of Bilbo of The Hobbit the book (but not so much Bilbo of The Hobbit the movie, sigh). Direction following is treated in a very balanced way. As in real life, in the movie there is a time to follow the instructions and a time to be creative.

The things I thought I would enjoy, I really did enjoy. The cameos by well-known characters from literature, history, sports, and pop-culture are awesome. My favorite was "Nineteen Eighty Something Spaceguy." Brilliant. 

The animation was both my favorite and my least favorite part of the movie. The jerky movements and limited joints are used to great advantage. Scenes of fire and water and bubbles are all managed in really creative and visually interesting ways. I loved the kid-type sound effects that sneak in here and there, hinting at the ending that's to come. But, the whole thing was very bright and frantic and noisome. I wish they could have toned it down just a bit.

I don't want to spoil the ending for you, but suffice to say, it ends up having a very sweet family message. It has humor that appeals to both kids and adults, but without being secretly bawdy. I was really pleasantly surprised by the innocence of the whole thing. The language is cute, and the romance is limited to some very endearing hand holding.

It's not going to change your life but it's a fun, clever movie with a nice message. And my kids really REALLY liked it.

Update: people have asked me if it's appropriate for younger kids. I'd say it depends. I would let my 2 and 4 year olds see it, but only because their older siblings would like it. I don't think there's anything overly scary or inappropriate, but the whole thing would be a bit over their heads.

It feels like an action movie. There are intense action scenes, torture, and the death of a character we like, but it's all in Lego! So there's no blood or guts, and it's all handled in a lighthearted comedic way. There's also a Lego guys photocopying their butts scene. I hated it when the minions did it, but it totally cracked me up to see the little backs of Lego guy legs coming out of the machine. There's a running gag about a TV show called Where Are My Pants? in which, you guessed it, the main character isn't wearing pants. But -- he's a Lego. I thought it was all in good fun.

My only caution for younger kids is that the plot is pretty complicated and seems aimed at older kids, teenagers, and adults. I don't think my little kids would have much of an idea of what's going on. But I do think they'd be mesmerized by just watching the Legos.

Updated update: I've now seen this movie four times (I think?), and I've liked it more each time. It's just a well-written, clever movie. And I'm not sure what I was talking about up there about it being "frantic and noisome" (who talks like that?). We saw it again this weekend after Bobby and Gus' Lego Movie themed birthday party, and I though the Lego stop-motion-looking effects were just brilliant. The fire, the Lego waves, it's all just perfect. Even the ending credits are astounding. I highly recommend this movie.

To see the party details or download free printables to throw your own, click here.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Big Family Disneyland Hacks

We moved to Los Angeles when Jack was four, but we didn't make our first family trip to Disneyland until his sixth birthday. We really think that's the ideal age for the trip. At six our kids are old enough to be familiar with the characters, but not too old to hug them. They are tall enough for all the rides, and brave enough for the Haunted Mansion.

Jack's trip started a tradition of going for each kid's sixth birthday. This weekend, we took a belated trip for Gus's sixth birthday which was in November, but we delayed the trip a bit because of the birth of baby Louise.

That was our fourth trip, and each time the family has been a bit bigger. So, here are some things we've learned over the years about bringing a whole bunch of little kids to Disneyland . . . 

1. Get There Early

We get to the gate before the park opens. Always. On crowded days, we can sometimes ride as many rides that first hour as we can the whole rest of the day. 

We also always take advantage of being there before everone else to get Fastpasses. Little kids don't love line time. Planning ahead can minimize it.

2. Save the Stroller for Stuff (and Toddlers)

If you have a sleeping baby in a stroller at Disneyland, you pretty much get to spend your day going on a walk at Disneyland. I don't know about you, but I don't think that sounds very fun. If you WEAR baby, she can still sleep, but you can join in the fun. Babywearing works GREAT at Disneyland, and (even though I have some issues with babywearing) I always do it. But it can be frustrating if you don't have the lowdown. 

Your best bet is a buckling-type carrier with baby in front. That gives you the most ride options. There are some rides that will allow soft carriers, or babies in back, but not all. So if, like me, you DO NOT LIKE WAKING UP SLEEPING BABIES (sorry, was I shouting?) just start them off in an Ergo or Bjorn in the front (I borrowed one before I owned my own). You'll be able to take them on just about any ride without a height requirement in either Disneyland or California Adventure, and that's a lot of rides.

The only exceptions I'm aware of are a few spinning-type rides like the Rocketships in Tomorrowland and the Teacups. Those rides require baby to be "sitting" on the seat. (Seems less safe to me, but I'm not in charge.) I really don't mind skipping those myself, but you can also just plan your spinning for in between naps.

Disneyland isn't particularly rollercoaster-focused, so there are quite a few major attractions you can go on while wearing a baby.

3. Divide and Conquer

Extra grownups or teenagers are a big help. We always have my parents with us (which also helps us with details like "buying tickets to Disneyland"). But even with just two grownups, we can split into groups of "tall enough" and "not tall enough" for a particular ride. The big kid group goes on the ride, the grownup with the little kids gets a "rider switch pass" from the ride operator. This allows up to three people to return to the ride anytime and go in the Fastpass line.

scarves are great for nursing under
AND helping little kids not get lost in a crowd

big kids at Space Mountain
While big kids are riding one thing, I take the little kids on something else. Disneyland is great for having different level rides close to each other. If you're too short for Indiana Jones, you can go on the Jungle Cruise, if you can't go on Space Mountain, you can go on the Submarines. Then, once baby wakes up, we switch. Someone else wears the baby, and I take a couple of people with me and go on the tall people rides. In between, we usually go on something all together.

It's not fool-proof, of course. Cars Land (so, so cool!) and the Aviation land in California Adventure have no little kid rides, so I ended up just wandering around and going in gift shops with Frankie and Lulu. 

Next time I'll just take them to A Bug's Land where the little kids rides are while the big kids are doing rides in those areas. And I got a phone call that Lulu was missing me just as I was about to get on Luigi's Flying Tires, but everyone said that ride wasn't so great anyway (maybe they were just being nice?).

4. The Tiki Room

Oh Tiki Room, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways . . .

  • Great for quick naps (for me)
  • Baby-wearing friendly
  • Air-conditioned
  • Secret bathroom
And I am going to take a moment here to publicly admit my love for robot birds (draw what conclusions you will) and that oh so catchy song.

4. Don't Get Lost (unless you do)

I've mentioned this before, but it's so great that I'm going to mention it again. We write our cell phone numbers on little kids' arms. So if they get lost, a friendly grownup can just call us.

We didn't end up losing anyone at either day at the theme parks, so that was nice. I did NOT write phone numbers on kids arms on Thursday night when we went to dinner in Downtown Disney . . . 

They say you're not supposed to leave children unattended in the Lego Store. But if you DO, they give them free Legos. I'm just sayin'.

5. Dress for Success

This has very little to do with being a big family, but it is so, so fun for the kids to dress up at Disneyland.

Nana outfitted the kids for the Disneyland day for this trip, but in other years we have just let the kids wear things out of the dress up box.

I sewed that Dorothy costume
for myself in high school
The people working at the park all greet the kids by their character names (even non-Disney characters like Dorothy!).

Frankie in a Tigger costume was a big hit with cast members and tourists alike. A BIG hit. At first it was making him super-duper mad that people kept calling him Tigger. ("NO. Me a FRANG-kee!") But he eventually got on board.

And we always tell them at the front gate that we're celebrating a birthday. Then they give us a birthday button with the child's name on it. And all day, everyone wishes him a Happy Birthday!

Dressing up and/or having a birthday button also seems to make it more likely they'll get picked to participate in the shows.

6. Stay here

We live about an hour away from Disneyland without traffic, but there's almost always traffic. It's really awesome to get to stay in a hotel walking distance to the parks, to help with point 1. We stay in the 2 Bedroom Family Suite at the Camelot Inn and Suites. The Disneyland resort hotels don't offer any two bedroom suites, and it would cost six times as much for adjoining rooms there.

It's no frills inside the rooms, but Tudor-cottage-themed on the outside, so my kids think it's plenty fancy. And nice hotels make me nervous anyway. Plus it's got a little kitchenette so we can have breakfast in the room.

And there's a heated pool. Perfect for February!

And that's it. Thanks Nana and Grandad! Anita's sixth birthday is next up, we'll see you then Disneyland . . .